By Uche Amunike
Nigerian lawyers have expressed their pain over President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration’s deliberate refusal to pay judgement debts in the last six years.
They complained that they were involved in several litigations on behalf of their clients at different Nigerian courts but even though they won quite a number of cases, the Federal government still refused to pay judgement debts, thereby leaving them badly affected.
This disclosure was made in a statement released by the Director of Legal Services, Barrister Agomuo Chimaobi, on behalf of the lawyers, saying that because they have utilized their personal funds to prosecute some of the cases on behalf of their clients, it has indeed left them economically crippled.
The statement indicated that the federal government has incurred debts from the lower courts of the Supreme Court, asking them to clear those debts.
It reads in part: ‘Since the inception of the President Mohammed Buhari administration, the president has made efforts in settling and paying off debts owed by the federal government of Nigeria to local contractors, subsidy payment, the Education sector.’
‘However, the Buhari administration since 2015 has not complied in settling and paying for judgement debt owed by the federal government of Nigeria to its citizens, organizations and business entities in Nigeria.’
‘The debts are judgments which emanated from the Federal High court of Nigeria. The Court of Appeal of Nigeria and the Supreme Court of Nigeria.’
‘These judgement debts are compiled at the office of the Honourable Attorney General of the federation and the Minister of Justice.’
The legal luminaries expressed their disapproval and disappointment at the fact that funds appropriated by the National Assembly from judgement debts between 2015 and 2021 are yet to be accounted for, as both the office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice are still denying its availability.
Their views: ‘This, to us, is apparently unconstitutional for the Executive arm of government to continue in neglecting judgements of the Judicial arm of government, especially superior courts of records vested with the powers to adjudicate between individuals, organizations and all arms of government as stated in section 6(1) of the 1999 constitution (as amended).’
‘We are therefore using the mass media as empowered by Section 22 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to cry out for justice through payment of the judgement debts by the federal government.’
‘We urge the president to rise to the occasion and as a matter of urgent National importance, consider the common man, the citizens of Nigeria whose businesses and assets continue to diminish by the non-payment of judgement debt owed since 2015 and the impact of COVID-19 to our economy. Mr President, please save our souls. As they say ‘justice delayed is justice denied’.
Nigeria is currently set to be in judgement debts to the tune of billions of Naira accrued from the huge amount piled up from damages, contract failures, fines against human rights abuses and other bad cases.